It is a period of civil war. Decent cinema, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Prequel Trilogy. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Prequel Trilogy’s ultimate weapon, a good fucking movie…
Yes, my dear and darling friends, we’re finally out of the weeds, and into the good stuff. The great stuff. The stuff that defined my childhood, the stuff that makes me tear up just thinking about it, the stuff that had me fall so passionately in love with this universe so many decades ago. Let’s put on that Meco remix of the original soundtrack, aka, my favourite piece of music on Earth, and get into this.
A New Hope is where it all begins, really. Not in terms of this story, tragically, but in terms of the Star Wars universe as the pop cultural behemoth that it would go on to become. As I wrote about George Lucas a few months ago, he came to define what a blockbuster would look like – between this and American Graffiti, for better or for worse, so much of the following few decades would be influenced by the instantly iconic status of A New Hope and the films that followed.
And I could talk to you about all the technical elements that make this film great. The sound design, the magnificent visuals, the groundbreaking effects – you’ve heard it all before. But what you may not have heard of, and what I would very much like to talk to you, while I have a moment here, about Marcia Lucas – George Lucas’s wife at the time of A New Hope, who is widely forgotten to be widely credited for literally saving this film and the rest of the trilogy from being an incomprehensible pile of nonsense-garbage. Marcia Lucas, by all accounts, more or less rescued A New Hope in the edits, threshing out an actual plot from the chaos of what George put to film. Her involvement in the franchise is a complicated and fascinating one, but one that I have only really seen delved into in recent years, and it’s always worth pouring one out for the woman who helped turn this story into the glorious hero’s journey that we see today.
Because that’s what A New Hope really is – a classic hero’s journey, as explored through the lens of a ridiculous space opera. Kyle Kalgren put together a brilliant video exploring how comfortably Star Wars epitomises this notion, and I think that is what makes it such an enduring mark on cinematic history. All the frippery that comes around it, all the beauty and all the music and all the iconic imagery, all that pales in comparison to the central tale of Luke Skywalker and his rise from Tatooine farm twink to co-saviour of the galaxy.
Mark Hamill is not the greatest actor I’ve ever seen (though his Joker is truly the best that I have ever seen, and yes, I include Joaquin Phoenix in that), but there is something about Luke that has always spoken to me. That moment, near the start of his introduction, when he stands on the bank and looks out over the two suns of Tatooine setting in the distance while the music swells in the background – that’s what Star Wars is to me. It’s the promise that, no matter how small and how insignificant your life might seem, it is rich with possibility. While Luke is obviously meant for more in the course of his life, as we will see in the following movies, he is really tossed into this plot out of nowhere, his life swooping along on a wild adventure where he becomes a saviour to the galaxy alongside a plucky group of co-leads (who I will certainly be getting in to in later reviews, but who I’m not going to spend too much time talking about here, apart from to say that Leia straight-up looking Vader in the eye seconds after he has basically watched her steal his shit and telling him that she has no idea what he’s talking about is the biggest dick energy in the galaxy).
A New Hope is the kind of deep, eternal film that feels as though it could as easily be transplanted into a medieval setting as it flows in its sci-fi one. There’s a reason that this was such an instant and impressive hit, and a reason that it lasts so well even today; this is a classic story, wrapped up in gorgeous and unique trappings, and a classic story will always have a place in pop culture. Skywalker is dead! Long live the better Skywalker.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, please check out our other cinematic universe retrospective – for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Jurassic Park movies, and the Batman cinematic universe. You can check out more of my work on my personal blog, The Cutprice Guignol!
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via The Conversation)